Grace Jones

“Music for the show of life that never ends” – Top of the Pops, 14 August 1980

Tommy Vance & Roger DaltreyIn the classic Comic Strip film More Bad News, a spoof documentary depicting a no-hope heavy metal band plucked from obscurity to perform at the Monsters of Rock festival, there’s a scene where the band, overcome with their new found success, “pretend to be The Who.” While it’s obvious that drummer Spider Webb will be Keith Moon (a role he takes on with relish, proceeding to smash up the band’s hotel room), there’s a huge fight (leading to a possible broken nose, several arrests and potential criminal proceedings) over who gets to be Pete Townshend and who has to take on the lesser role of Roger Daltrey. The following day, while out on bail, Bad News are introduced on stage at Castle Donington by guitar based rock legend Tommy Vance who, by a staggering coincidence, is presenting tonight’s edition of TOTP with “help” from the afore-mentioned Daltrey. Vance is, of course, his usual gravel-voiced authoritative self, while Daltrey is a complete tit, sulking because The Clash aren’t on the show and generally behaving like he’d rather be down the pub. Luckily the show is only half an hour long this week so we shan’t detain him for too long.

See the full top 75 for this week on the Official Charts Website.

ULTRAVOX – Sleepwalk (#29)

UltravoxAs Tommy Vance long-windedly but authoritatively points out, we’re coming out of the very short period during which former Ultravox! lead singer John Foxx was more successful than his former band; since going solo at the start of the year he’d scored two top forty hits and appeared twice on the show with Underpants Underpass and No-one Driving. What Foxxy hadn’t bargained for was an Ultravox revival, heralded by the disposal of the exclamation mark and the arrival of Midge Ure on a free transfer from Thin Lizzy. We first saw Ure on the TOTP reruns back in 2011 when he was lead singer of Slik – who, in boy band terms, were a Let Loose to the Bay City Rollers’ Take That – but since then he had progressed through various acts including Rich Kids and Visage. With Ure at the helm Ultravox would become one of the most successful bands of the first half of the 1980s, but at the moment they’re still fairly anonymous, dressed sensibly and hidden behind banks of synths while Ure and his blossoming moustache take centre stage. As soon as he learns how to tie that bow tie they’ll be huge.

DAVID BOWIE – Ashes To Ashes (#4)

David Bowie“Not a guitar in sight!” exclaims Vance, choking back a tear. What better way to counteract this travesty than by attempting to interview co-host Daltrey, who clearly doesn’t want to be interviewed. We establish that The Who have been on tour, it’s been a good tour and Roger likes so many singers he can’t even name one. “It’s easier to name people I don’t like,” he claims, and indeed we’re left in no doubt during the show about what he doesn’t like. He does like David Bowie though, “one of the guv’nors,” which is a relief as Ashes To Ashes has crashed into the chart at number 4 this week. Bowie’s not in the studio, of course, but luckily he’s sent along a “piece of film” which “cost something like £40,000 to make,” according to Tommy. Other sources reckon it cost closer to quarter of a million, but it was still money well spent because everyone in the entire world has seen the Ashes To Ashes video. Clearly not much of it was spent on the “Bowie in Pierrot costume waist-deep in water” effect though, which looked as unconvincing then as it does now. Still, interesting that this video, starring New Romantic pioneer Steve Strange, is placed directly after Ultravox whose Midge Ure and Billy Currie were also members of Strange’s synthpop collective Visage. We won’t be seeing them on TOTP for a few months yet though.


Legs & CoWhoever made the decision to employ Roger Daltrey as a television personality is now committing seppuku in the control room, as he falters to the conclusion that “there’s an awful lot I’d like to say about Legs & Co, but I’m afraid they’d probably bleep me out.” Presumably this is intended as playful, non-specifically sexist “banter” but it could equally be that Roger just thinks they’re f<BLEEP>ing awful. For all their success – and they had 27 top forty hits between 1972 and 1986 – ELO’s only number 1 single came during The Event and is therefore lost to TOTP history; even the cobbled together pilot edition in July covered Xanadu with just a still photo of Olivia Newton-John. This would, however, have been preferable to Limbs & Co arsing around in front of a giant globe in skimpy yet stereotypical costumes representing various nations: a Stars & Stripes bikini; an improperly short kimono that would get you arrested in Japan; a kilt for Scotland, where of course everyone wears kilts all the time, although if you went out wearing a shirt with no back like that you’d catch your death of cold. Let’s face it, it’s the worst BBC 1 ident ever.

MIKE BERRY – The Sunshine Of Your Smile (#22)

Mike Berry“Now here’s a song that first came out in 1913!” Cue jokes about Tommy Vance being old enough to remember it the first time around, etc. It’s absolutely true, however; here’s a version by Fred Douglas from a 78 recorded over a hundred years ago. Blimey. By contrast Mike Berry’s first hit, the self-explanatory Tribute To Buddy Holly was only 54 years old at the time of this BBC Four rerun, although his brief ’60s chart career was over before TOTP started in 1964 so the Chas Hodges-produced The Sunshine Of Your Smile was his début on the show. By 1980 Berry was more famous as an actor, having appeared in kids’ favourite Worzel Gummidge, which made his belated return to the chart all the more bizarre. It may not be quite in keeping with the brave new world of balloons and streamers, but Berry makes a brave front of it and the crowd at least attempts to sway along instead of just staring contemptuously as the Robin Nash-era audience would have done. Berry went on to become even more famous the following year when he replaced Trevor Bannister in the long-running BBC sitcom Are You Being Served?; whatever you may think of The Sunshine Of Your Smile, you have to admit it’s better than John Inman’s 1975 hit single.

GRACE JONES – Private Life (#24)

Grace Jones“If the arrows are going up, it means it’s going up, doesn’t it?” “I would think so.” Tommy explaining the hugely complicated new icons on the top thirty countup to a nonplussed Glaswegian lady there, no wonder he got the Radio 1 Top 40 gig a few months later. The new format is still being tinkered with so we get numbers 30 to 11 in one go this week, still slightly too fast for the host to read comfortably. “Oh, he does go on!” moans Daltrey, before hesitantly introducing Grace Jones, another artist making her TOTP début tonight. Initially a model, Jones branched out into acting in a couple of low budget movies while also releasing a trio of disco albums in the late ’70s. For the new decade Island records wisely teamed her up with Sly & Robbie for this Pretenders cover which became Jones’ first hit single. As expected Grace considers herself far too cool to be doing this sort of thing but is contractually obliged to turn up, doing the whole thing with a sour face, arms folded and a fag on the go.

VILLAGE PEOPLE – Can’t Stop the Music (#27)

Village People“Can’t get me words out!” Vance exclaims as he repeatedly trips himself up on his link out of Grace Jones, “let’s see if Roger Daltrey can speak better than I.” …….Nnnnnnno. You’ll be amazed to discover that Daltrey is not a fan of disco – “Urgh! Can’t stand it! It’s terrible!” And so we reach the point in the show that everyone remembers, thanks to its appearance in The Story of 1980 documentary at the start of the year: Vance announces the Village People as Daltrey sneers, “Watch yer backs!” But, wait a second, it’s not there! That’s right, having drawn everyone’s attention to Daltrey’s homophobic comment in the documentary, the BBC Four scissor-wielders have only gone and cut it out of the actual show. We would never have known he’d even said it if the documentary hadn’t made such a big deal of it. Anyway, here’s a clip from the Village People movie. Yes, the Village People movie. With a cast of thousands – and that’s just the band, ha ha – and starring roles for Steve Guttenberg and Bruce Jenner, the movie is famous for being the first ever recipient of the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture. The clip here is nothing more than the group performing the title song on stage, but that’s still enough to turn Daltrey’s stomach.

SUE WILKINSON – You Gotta Be A Hustler If You Wanna Get On (#30)

Sue WilkinsonDon’t worry about Roger though, he’s found some consolation. “They haven’t got the Clash, but they’ve got some lovely birds on the show.” Oh, that’s alright then. Time for one of those bizarre novelty hits that these TOTP reruns throw up from time to time, this one from Sue Wilkinson who is accompanied by a keyboardist and – rather unnecessarily – Don Powell from Slade behind a drum kit that clearly doesn’t feature on the record. Despite its long winded title, You Gotta Be A Hustler If You Wanna Get On is pleasingly minimalist plinky-plonk with only a few bars of electronic snare here and there and the occasional sound of someone twanging a ruler off a desk. While this is going on, Sue tells us about her childhood neighbour Sally who, it transpires, has become rich and famous by… well, “putting out”. Sue’s not like that though, she’s a good girl, and tells us in her best good girl voice about how awful Sally is for copulating her way to fame and fortune and how terrible it is that this is considered not only acceptable, but necessary behaviour, all while Roger Daltrey stands leering just off camera. This is, as Daltrey says, a cleaned-up version of the song for single release; if you’re not shocked by the word “hooker” they you may be eligible for the ruder version.

ABBA – The Winner Takes It All (#1)

ABBAMeanwhile Vance is still chatting up the girl from Glasgow, telling her to listen to the lyrics next time because they’re very clever, and did she recognise the drummer? No, of course she didn’t, and even after being told who he is she seems no further forward. The top ten countup is tightened up from last week, with captions over the video clips instead of before them, although with Tom Browne at number 10 and Odyssey at 9 it does look for a moment as if Limbs & Co are going to dance to the entire top ten. ABBA’s magnum opus is still at the top and we get the bottom-lip-quavering video (or is it a “piece of film”?) again, after which we find the increasingly recalcitrant Daltrey reclined on the stage beside Vance. No wonder he’s pretending to be asleep though, Tommy wants to interview him some more. Leave it out, Tom! Daltrey doesn’t even bother to say goodnight before a horde of dancers descend on the scene to stand around aimlessly to Diana Ross’s Upside Down. Never mind, next week’s celebrity host will be far more enthusiastic.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Sound of the Crowd on Patreon!

One comment on ““Music for the show of life that never ends” – Top of the Pops, 14 August 1980

  1. Just past midway through Legs & Co’s dance to All Over The World watch as the black and white video screen starts to roll the picture. Whoops, that wasn’t an affect that’s the gen lock gone to pot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.